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Prohibition Strategy

5/30/2014:

After a pre-election meeting in Grand Forks, prohibitionists decided to hold a meeting in Jamestown on this date in 1889 to plan their strategy. They had been somewhat successful in the election of members of their party to the Constitutional Convention, particularly in the eastern counties, however, almost all of the twenty-five districts had proposed that the prohibition plank to the constitution be voted upon as a separate issue and not be written into the constitution. The reason was quite simple. A large majority of the voting public was opposed to the ban on alcohol. It had already been voted down in the last general election and in the last legislative session. To make it a part of the constitution would risk a no vote on the constitution and a possible two-year delay in obtaining statehood.

Organizers hoped for hundreds of participants at the meeting in Jamestown, but when the convention opened there were a mere thirty-nine attendees, but the number did increase slightly over the course of the two-day conference. The Rev. Moses Barker, from Huron, opened the convention. His wife, Helen Barker, was president of the territorial Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which was quickly gaining support across Dakota Territory.

Even though the Jamestown meeting was not heavily attended, they were successful in establishing a potent organization that would run an effective campaign. First they set up a North Dakota Non-Partisan Temperance Alliance, which created an umbrella organization for all the temperance forces across the territory. Second, they created a format to establish temperance groups in each county. And third, and most important, they created a funding source to mount the campaign. Using what was known nationally as the Sutley Plan, they issued twenty-five thousand shares of stock in the Alliance for ten dollars a share. To make it more affordable, each share was sold at a dollar down and nine yearly installments of one dollar each. After meeting half their obligation, the purchaser would receive a lithographed life-certificate to membership in the Alliance.

On the final night of the conference, Mrs. Barker delivered an emotional appeal, saying the presence of alcohol condemned their sons and daughters to a life of depravity. Although towns and cities relied upon the money for licensing saloons for community improvements, she promised that, “Every woman in Dakota would rather walk knee-deep in gumbo mud, than on streets paved with the souls of her boys.”

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis

Sources:

The Jamestown Weekly Alert May 30, 1889

The Bismarck Tribune June 3, 1889